After the season eight premiere of The Office, in which we found out that Andy is the new boss, I thought there was some potential for the show’s new dynamic. I thought it was a good episode, and it didn’t really cause any concern for me. I cannot say the same things about the second episode of the season, “The Incentive.” This ridiculous, mediocre entry into the show’s canon was not only not all that enjoyable, but makes me quite concerned about Andy’s long term viability.
The episode begins with a silly cold open in which Kevin is basically talking like a caveman to “save time.” Eventually, Jim, Pam, and Andy convince him to stop, because it is confusing. Like I said, it was silly, and it did not work all that well. Not only that, it dragged on longer than need be. When people talk about The Office becoming too cartoonish, this is exactly what they are talking about. In fact, this episode is pretty much exactly what they are complaining about.
After the cold open, Dwight is giving a meeting about Sabre’s new pyramid shaped iPad knockoff, which is another ridiculous joke you would see in a lesser episode of The Simpsons. He is interrupted by Andy looking for advice on his tie for his meeting with Robert. This drives Dwight to give up, sit back, and wait for Andy to fail.
Robert shows up for the meeting, and Andy calls him Dad. Is this supposed to be a joke about Andy making a mistake because he’s nervous? Or is this supposed to insinuate that Andy sees his own father in Robert, and wants to impress him as some sort of father surrogate? I don’t know, and, frankly, I don’t care. Andy isn’t developed enough of a character for that to be interesting, especially since Robert is not developed at all. He’s still just the weird but engaging boss everybody wants to impress.
Robert and Andy talk, and the only thing we really find out is that Robert has an unusual favorite ice cream flavor. My guess is blue moon. Also, Erin gives Robert an overflowing cup of cold coffee, which was kind of funny. After Robert gives a rousing speech to his employees, he tells Andy to increase their sales numbers by eight percent, which Andy of course doesn’t think he can do because he doesn’t believe in himself.
He tries to have a “rap session,” but mostly he’s trying to get the other folks at the branch to come up with ideas for how to increase profits. Ideas he doesn’t have. Nobody has any way to help him, especially not Dwight, who is too busy making brownies in protest of the way Andy has treated him.
Eventually, Andy resorts to an incentive program, where you can exchange points for (not so) fabulous prizes. Also, you can pool your points, which is key. After he doesn’t inspire anybody with his prizes, he starts throwing out silly, self-denigrating ideas, including getting a tattoo of their choice on his bottom. This suddenly manages to inspire them, and off they go, leaving Andy nervous.
This is when the episode really turned for me. This was far too ridiculous. This is something they never even trotted out when scrambling for dumb things for Michael to do. It wasn’t funny, and it felt very arch to a degree I cannot accept. Unsurprisingly, suddenly everybody is working quickly, and they reach their goal before the day is even done. What are the odds!?
They all head to the tattoo parlor, thereby undoing much of the productivity from earlier in the day. They came up with a vile idea for a tattoo involving a baby, but then as Andy stands outside worrying about what to do, Jim comes out to tell him that nobody actually expects him to go through with it. However, for whatever reason, he decides to do it anyway, including but not limited to taking off his pants entirely.
Of course, then came the spate of marriages in the forest at the end of the Shakespeare play, as in the end, while everybody has their laughs, even Dwight, they actually exchanged the tattoo for one of a dog with “Nard” emblazoned on it, much to Andy’s delight. We then hear Robert tell us why he chose Andy to be boss; because everything about him you can see on the surface, which is great for a character getting more screentime.
We also find out that Darryl has had an intimate encounter with his ex-wife, and then she shows up and they go into Darryl’s office to talk. About what? We don’t know. It literally ended there in this episode. Also, Angela and Pam briefly become walking buddies. This also didn’t go anywhere, and wasn’t funny.
This was the worst episode of The Office since “Mafia.” It had some nice moments, sure, but the plot was just too goofy and lacked pretty much any substance. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it a sign of things to come. Sometimes a show has an off episode. This episode just so happened to be the second episode of a season of show which has lost its main character. Maybe the show will struggle. Maybe it won’t.
On my podcast, The Office, and particularly Andy as boss, has been a recurring topic. My main point has been this: As long as Andy doesn’t become the new Michael, if he’s just Andy as boss, that’s fine. However, through two episodes, I’m not even quite sure that is working. Andy can work as boss within the show, but so far it has not really gone anywhere interesting or, in this case, anywhere good. Was this episode so ridiculously plotted because they don’t know what to do with Andy? Can they build anything around him? If Andy doesn’t get more screentime, who fills the void of Michael’s screentime on the show? It won’t be Robert, at least not most weeks.
Additionally, nothing really interesting has happened for the rest of the characters either. Even with such big changes to the show, it still manages to feel like it is stagnating. I’m not going to make any grand assessments yet. It has just been two episodes, and one of them was good. That being said, “The Incentive” was not all that enjoyable, and given its position in the season, it is a reason for concern.